Sassuolo made a spectacular Europa League debut, sweeping Athletic Club Bilbao aside 3-0 including a fantastic Pol Lirola solo effort.
Elsewhere in the group, Rapid Wien beat Genk 3-2.
The Neroverdi made history with their first ever European campaign, but Domenico Berardi was out injured with Stefano Sensi, Simone Missiroli, Marcello Gazzola and Emanuele Terranova. Athletic Bilbao came to the Mapei Stadium with a full squad.
It was an aggressive start for the Basques, as Yeray Alvarez’s header whistled just wide from a corner and Sabin Merino blasted over after a Benat Etxebarria through ball.
Sassuolo were struggling above all in the air, as Alvarez and Iker Muniain nodded past the upright, while Luca Mazzitelli’s snapshot took a deflection to aid the goalkeeper.
Francesco Acerbi was wide awake and decisive to close down promising moves for Inaki Williams and Raul Garcia, then Paolo Cannavaro threw himself at a Williams snapshot from the edge of the box to charge it down.
Tim Letschert wasted a promising opportunity with a real defender’s finish when he could’ve passed it to teammates better placed.
On the stroke of half-time, Andrea Consigli had his first genuine save, getting down to beat away a Benat Etxibarria screamer from distance.
Federico Ricci failed to make the most of a Matteo Politano run past three defenders, firing wide from a promising position.
Aritz Aduriz, still looking for his first goal of the season, came on for the second half and immediately had an effort charged down.
However, it was Sassuolo who broke the deadlock with a quite extraordinary moment of magic from Juventus-owned defender Pol Lirola. The Spanish right-back dribbled past several players and placed his angled drive into the far bottom corner from 10 yards with the inside of his left boot.
Athletic aimed a few hopeful attempts off target, but fell 2-0 down when Defrel pounced on a weak San Jose back-pass to side-foot past the goalkeeper one-on-one.
Sassuolo really got into their stride as the game wore on, even without talisman Berardi. After strikers swarmed forward, Politano’s low finish went through a sea of legs to leave the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
It was almost 4-0 moments later, but Herrerin performed a stunning one-handed reaction save on Antonino Ragusa.
Late on Lirola and Ragusa combined, again forcing Herrerin into heroics to keep the scoreline down.
Sassuolo 3-0 Athletic
Lirola 59 (S), Defrel 75 (S), Politano 82 (S)
Sassuolo: Consigli; Lirola, Cannavaro, Acerbi, Letschert; Biondini, Magnanelli, Mazzitelli (Duncan 74); Politano, Defrel (Matri 83), Ricci (Ragusa 54)
Athletic: Herrerin; De Marcos, Yeray Alvarez, Laporte, Balenziaga (Lekue 77); San Jose, Benat Etxebarria; Muniain (Susaeta 54), Raul Garcia, Williams (Aduriz 54); Sabin Merino
Ref: Raczkowski (POL)